An Eden Prairie martial arts instructor has been convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from repeated sexual contacts with a 15-year-old girl in 2018.
Hyobin Lee, 33, was sentenced Tuesday to 48 months in prison for penetrating a victim 13 to 15 years old while in a position of authority. Judge Carolina A. Lamas, who presided over the case in Hennepin County District Court, opted to reduce Lee’s sentence by more than 30% compared to state sentencing guidelines.
In her Minnesota Sentence Guidelines Departure statement, Lamas cited Lee’s offense as a “crime less onerous than usual” as her reasoning for departing from the sentencing guideline.
Lee was acquitted of a second similar count of criminal sexual contact.
Eden Prairie Police arrested Lee in 2020 after they were notified of sexual abuse by a mandatory reporter in the Scott County School District.
According to the October 2020 complaint:
Police received a call on Sept. 21, 2020, reporting the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old female at an Eden Prairie Tae Kwon Do studio by Lee, who was one of its instructors.
In 2018, Lee began offering the victim rides to bring her from school to the studio. The victim trained with Lee and referred to him as “Master Lee.”
The victim described numerous times when Lee picked her up from school, drove to his house where they would have sex, and then drive them to the Tae Kwon Do class. The victim also told police about an incident at the Tae Kwon Do studio in which Lee entered a girl’s dressing room where he attempted to have sex with her. “The victim tried to get the defendant to stop,” the complaint reads. “But he wouldn’t stop, instead told her to be quiet.”
In November 2018, the studio changed locations nearer the victim’s home. She then left the studio location and ended interactions with Lee.
At the time of his arrest, Lee was the lead instructor at the Eden Prairie location, where he continued to teach children and adults of all ages, a witness told police.
The witness described the Taw Kwon Do hierarchical system of doing things for your Master when asked. The witness said this had been “taken too far” at the Eden Prairie studio. In September 2020, the victim disclosed to the witness what Lee had done to her when she was 15.
Lamas and the court received dozens of letters of support for Lee, most of them imploring the judge not to sentence him to the sentencing guideline of 144 months. The court file contains 43 pages of letters from friends and family, as well as parents of former students and students themselves.
Many of the letters came from friends and family in his hometown of Busan, Republic of Korea, including one from his mother, Ju Seong Hee, 64. “Whenever I think about whether I will be alive and not die in 144 months, I feel like the sky has collapsed and I am buried in the ground,” she wrote.
His older sister, Hyo-Seon Lee, also asked the judge to consider reducing Lee’s sentence. “I would like to share with you what he told me the last time we were in contact,” she said. “He shared with me that he wants to truly reveal to everyone that the beliefs and morals he taught to his students are not lies.”
The maximum sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct is 30 years in prison when a 13- to 15-year-old victim is abused by a person of authority.
Lee was ordered committed to the Minnesota Correctional Facility at St. Cloud. He received credit for 18 days of time served and is required to register as a predatory offender. He also must pay $78 in court costs.
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